This week’s news that 2017 will be Len Dawson’s final year with Chiefs Radio Network got us thinking.
Where does Dawson rank in the pantheon of Kansas City sports figures? Up there, at or near the top as a Pro Football Hall of Famer, MVP of Super Bowl IV and a broadcaster for more than a half-century.
Dawson has a place on my Mount Rushmore of Kansas City sports.
Who joins him as legendary sports figures in Kansas City’s history? Everyone has their own ideas.
These are mine: George Brett, Tom Watson, Buck O’Neil and Dawson.
Brett is a no-brainer: the greatest of all Royals, batting titles in three different decades, part of the organization since 1973. He’s the lone player in baseball’s Hall of Fame who was predominantly a Royal.
Watson is perhaps Kansas City’s best known and most successful native son. He attended Pembroke Country Day School (now Pembroke Hill) and went on to become the world’s top-ranked golfer each year from 1978 to 1982. Along the way, he captured eight majors, including five British Opens. He continues to make the Kansas City area his home, has designed courses here and has raised millions for charitable causes through his events.
O’Neil may be a less obvious choice, but there was no better ambassador for baseball and the Negro Leagues. O’Neil arrived in Kansas City in 1938 and played and managed the Monarchs. He became a Royals scout in 1988 and led the effort to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. His national profile soared after his appearances on the PBS series “Baseball” in 1994, and in 2006 O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
Those are my picks. I could make cases for others, such as Frank White, Hank Stram, Derrick Thomas or Willie Lanier. And who has influenced the current Kansas City sports scene more than Lamar Hunt and Ewing Kauffman? Perhaps one day Eric Berry, Salvador Perez or Matt Besler will be part of the conversation.
But not for a while, not when there’s only room for four.